This has been a very good year for documentaries so far, particularly those off the beaten path of the usually more serious-minded docus that flood art house theaters. One of those, California Typewriter, made its debut at last year’s Telluride Film Festival where it was rapturously received as the little gem that it is. Now it has distribution and opened in New York last Friday and will expand there this weekend before opening in Los Angeles in early September.
As I say in my video review above, this unique and remarkably poignant docu about a growing cult of die-hard typewriter believers is wise, witty and nostalgic as it draws the parallel between humans and machines, technological advances versus a life lived more simply and purely. For those under a certain age, let me explain that in the era before computers, laptops, iPhones and other such digital devices, people used what was known as a typewriter, a machine with keys for the alphabet and other symbols on which some of the greatest works of the 20th century were written. California Typewriter is a rarity, a repair and retail store in Northern California that celebrates these wonderful relics that some just can’t let go even if they aren’t as advanced as the device I am currently using to tap out this review.
Director Doug Nichol follows a group of disparate characters in their quest for the ultimate typewriters, including one man who will stop at nothing to add what is essentially the holy grail of these machines to his collection. Flea markets, eBay and other places are included here, as the last of these unique treasures are scooped up by those determined to stay married to a simpler time when an IT guy wasn’t needed to make sure you could complete your work.
Best of all are interviews with typewriter afficionados like Tom Hanks, musician John Mayer, author David McCullough, and the late Sam Shepard in one of his final film appearances explaining why it was important to him to write all his works on the typewriter he has always used. Hanks actually shows off his impressive collection and takes the viewer through the distinct personalities of each one of them. Mayer is fascinating as he ticks off all the reasons creativity is far more satisfying when done the old-school way. Who knew that such an amazing, yet pertinent film that covers typewriters, their history and dwindling armies of users could be as endlessly riveting to watch as Nichol’s movie proves?
It is a must see, and that is NOT a typo. As Hanks, Shepard and others believe, this is a movie truly celebrating the right write stuff. Nicol and John Benet are producers. Gravitas Ventures is releasing.
Do you plan to see California Typewriter? Let us know what you think.